forestSetting up legal rights for forest-dwelling peoples costs
little, but can make a big difference to efforts aimed at reducing
Supporting the rights of the world's forest-dwelling peoples has long
been seen as an essential part of reducing deforestation. Yet
policymakers have been unwilling to take on the economic and political
costs of enforcing these rights.
Fresh research has now shown that the monetary costs, at least, are
meagre compared with the overall price tag of the United Nations'
proposed Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation
The study was launched today at the Rights, Forests and Climate Change
conference in Oslo, Norway. It estimates that just US$3.35 per hectare
could implement legal and regulatory frameworks ensuring land
ownership and habitation rights for forest communities. The estimate
includes the direct costs associated with demarcating territory,
registering land, raising awareness and resolving local disputes.
By comparison, the estimated costs of setting up and implementing the
REDD programme could be up to $3,500 per hectare each year for the
next 22 years.
"The idea of the study is to put things in perspective," says Jeffrey
Hatcher, the report's author and an analyst at the Rights and
Resources Initiative, a coalition of conservation groups. "There is
strong evidence that local people are good at forestry management. So
even if REDD does not come about, if you at least recognize people's
rights you will get a good outcome and reduced emissions."
Credit to the nations
The UN-REDD programme was launched in September this year with $35
million from the Norwegian government, and is still taking shape.
Under the programme, governments would be paid by the international
community to preserve forests in global efforts to combat climate change.
But campaigners have warned that unless the proposals take greater
account of the rights of forest-dwelling communities to live, manage
and take resources from the land, the plans will fail, and could
provoke corruption and land grabs.
Erik Solheim, Norway's environment and international development
minister, told the conference, "Indigenous peoples are rightly
concerned about how these new investments could affect their access to
the forests that they depend on for their livelihoods. These rights
need to be respected, not just for moral reasons, although that is
vital. It is also a matter of pragmatism and effectiveness."
Hatcher's report comes as the European Commission today announced its
proposals for cutting emissions from deforestation and for tackling
illegal logging. Deforestation contributes around 20% of the overall
greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.
The European Commission backs a plan announced on Tuesday from Johan
Eliasch, a businessman appointed by UK prime minister Gordon Brown to
be his special adviser on forests.
Eliasch proposed that countries should be rewarded with carbon credits
for not cutting down forests and for reforesting previously logged
areas. The credits could be exchanged for cash in the emerging global
carbon market, but it would be left up to governments to decide how
money earned would be spent and what measures are needed to prevent
World leaders will decide on whether to include UN-REDD as part of a
new suite of measures to combat climate change at the United Nations'
COP15 climate-change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009.
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